Nicks: Hello boys, girls, and ice cream swirls. This guest article has been contributed by Arpit Verma. An aerospace engineer by profession, Arpit can be found at pricebaba.com, leading their initiatives on digital marketing. He can also be found screaming his head off, willing United on to score that late game winner. The game will end 0-0.
As a kid growing up in the garden city of India, Manchester United has been a witness to me transforming from being a shy kid, still learning to kick a ball, to an outspoken adult who has now given up playing the game because the fat belly requires too much of an effort. Every important event of my life is remembered with a corresponding United moment. For example, we won the treble when I first took part in a declamation contest; we won the Champions League in 2008, the day my board results came out; I wrote my first article on the web when United signed Dimitar Berbatov; and there are countless such memories. Everything important in life has a correlated United moment. No, I am not going to argue how big a fan I am or how much United means to me, but let’s just say there is not a game I have missed in these 16 years and today the first thing my boss asks me on a Monday is what the result on the weekend was, to gauge how the coming week would fall. United has been such a part of life that it has become synonymous with my being.
No matter the ups and downs, heartbreaks and joy, United has been there. It has been like a childhood romance that continues to grow strong, at least until this season. The BPL 2015/16 season has been a strange one. You do not need me to tell you about the achievements of Leicester, or the shocking fall of Rafael Benitez, who started the season as the manager of the most successful European team and has now relegated Newcastle, or even how Manchester City in their zeal of announcing the prized appointment of Pep Guardiola as their manager for next season pretty much wrecked their league chances themselves. To say that the season has been a rollercoaster would be a gross understatement. In fact, if Race 3 was to be made, we are sure that Abbas-Mustan, the famous director duo, could look at the season gone by for an inspiration of the twists and turns and subplots.
Swimming in the angry seas and battling the storms that the PL season has been, albeit just about, somehow, is Manchester United. After a dreadful December, where even Louis van Gaal’s biggest supporters had left the Dutchman’s head on the chopping board, the team now stands virtually having lost the top four spot at the expense of their noisy neighboring rivals. They may also get an FA Cup win, something the club has not achieved since Cristiano Ronaldo’s dreadful hairstyle days. You know how long ago that was, right? Finding themselves in a mess of injuries which would easily give the casualty ward of a local hospital a flush of cash, and form that fluctuates more than the BSE during elections, Manchester United have been a model of inconsistency. The team has played with as much rhythm to their games as a crow’s caw and have a lot to thank for the fortuitous introduction of Marcus Rashford, and the likes of Anthony Martial and Juan Mata scoring critical goals where the team deserved a giant ‘gola’ (zero in Hindi).
One might say that all of this is a part of the struggle that any football club undergoes when it is in transition. In fact, it has just been three years since the whiskey-nosed don of the game prowled that touchline at Old Trafford for the last time in a competitive fixture. United could be excused for taking their time and building up gradually. However, the spectacle this year has been abysmal. Part of the problem has been the constant links to Jose Mourinho. Ever since the Portuguese was sacked by Chelsea, there has been a new report everyday linking him to United. Manchester United have not helped by not making a statement, Louis van Gaal seems to be playing with words more fluently than his legendary Ajax team ever did with the ball, and supporters are transfixed to their Twitter timelines hoping for a change.
Hope is a wonderful thing, but hope is also what has been killer in this case. You have a world class manager available, someone who would guarantee you success and trophies that the expectant Manchester United supporters have been craving, and apparently he is all willing to be taking the challenge up. Now, for a second, just imagine, if Mourinho was not available and Klopp was at Liverpool, Ancelotti off to Bayern, Guardiola at City, Wenger at Arsenal, and Conte at Chelsea, would United fans still hate the guts of Louis van Gaal as much as they do? Possibly not; it is the hope of a Jose Mourinho that has more than anything else made fans wish for a negative result in the immediate present for a happier tomorrow. It is clear as daylight that Louis would be off come the summer of 2017. It has clearly not worked out for him at United. Yes, he may have a real trophy to show at the end of this season – something Dave Moyesy could not claim – and a clean sheet record that would make the likes of Rio and Vida proud. But his transfer dealings have been poor, he has fallen out with pretty much every senior player bar Rooney and Smalling, and thought upon his arrival that David de Gea was not a good enough keeper. For a pragmatic, slow and methodologically driven van Gaal, the fast, furious and swashbuckling Manchester United has been the worst possible match. It is like Dwayne Johnson singing the Opera in the Sydney House. It is wrong on just so many levels.
But perhaps, this is what the club needed. A bit of a clearout, a reality check that they could be dethroned and a disciplined approach post the chaos of the David Moyes Era. With all of it in place and a dreadful season behind, how can you blame anyone from wanting a change? The club has behaved in an impeccable fashion in this chaos. They have absolutely stayed silent. There has been no backing for their employee, there has been no confirmation of things not looking good, absolutely nothing, which makes everyone question whether behind those sunglasses of Ed Woodward at Norwich, there was a pair of eyeballs with severe deficiency of sight. It’s not like Sir Alex Ferguson did not drive the club to a failure ever. There were a fair few dry seasons at the turn of the millennium, there were games where United were just outdone, clear as daylight. But never was there ever a feeling of resignation among everyone, where no matter what happens, it would make little difference.
Post the Manchester City and Arsenal games, there was a general feeling of happiness among the crowd that it was a great result for United, who had their fate in their own hands. That happiness quickly turned into fear that this could mean Louis van Gaal staying for another year because he would achieve his target of a top four finish, bare minimum. Under Sir Alex, there would have been a unanimous cry of ‘Come On United’ with a strong wave of positive energy being thrown at the team. Today, there is still the debate, whether missing out on Champions League (if that is what it takes) is worth it just to get rid of van Gaal. United will mostly miss out, and that would make the fans just as happy as it would if they had grabbed top four, as it would mean goodbye Louis for sure. The whole atmosphere is that of mass confusion. Fans are divided by their love of the club and their demand of wanting the Dutchman out at any cost. The total number of United fans who would want Louis van Gaal post this season could easily be counted on fingers out of the 300 odd million fans this club has. Sadly for United, one such fan remains Ed Woodward, at least that is what it looks like.
I am nobody to demand that an old man, in his last year of job, be sacked; on a professional level that is wrong. But would you or I not be shown the door if we do not do our job well? You can make a case that Louis van Gaal has so far done the job well, at least on paper. In fact, if you were sleeping for two years, the years gone by on paper are better than the time Moyes made everyone sit through, but if you have been awake and had to sit through it, that is where it has been troublesome. Just to make the point clearer and wish for an action, United fans today want their team to fail, because they are not sure the incompetent board is seeing what they should have seen long ago. Dare I say, but didn’t West Ham sack Allardyce despite him doing everything he was asked to and bring in Bilic, in order to adhere to a style and flamboyance that the game of football is supposed to bring? If only the United board would see the same. At least we would not have to think twice before fist pumping a late winner, like only United could score. Just for putting every fan through this feeling, van Gaal must go. For sucking the life out of the club, for killing any attacking instincts, for an inexplicable love for possession at a club built on counter attacking, for wasting a ton of money, for just not being a manager of Manchester United, but making Manchester United a club that Louis van Gaal manages.